By Thomas Putnam
Last week I introduced the plan to chronicle the process of producing a play from beginning to end. Barbara Biddison offered her initial take on this project earlier this week. The reality, however, is that there likely is no moment of beginning, and hopefully there is no moment of ending. Sure, there is an actual date when the performances begin, and there is a moment when, after the last performance, the set and props are completely off the stage and put back in storage. I can remember the first time I heard the title INTO THE BREECHES by George Brandt, but all that I have lived before that moment is part of the journey.
For example, the play takes place during World War II. The characters on stage are primarily women whose husbands have gone to serve in the war. My dad was in the war and my mother was left at home. He first was stationed in various places in the the country and then went to Europe. He had just enough time to see his newborn daughter whilst on leave the day before he sailed away. There are some incredibly moving moments in the play as the characters talk about hearing from or not hearing from their overseas husbands. I'm not sure whether reading these sections of dialogue have given me more insight into their challenges (one of them has an infant) due to hearing the stories of my own parents; or whether I have been given more insight into my mother's war-time life due to reading the dialogue in the play. My life is richer either way. As Atticus Finch says...
The first time I heard the title of the play was when I was at Chautauqua a few years ago. The arts at Chautauqua (opera, dance, theatre) are all glorious and I looked forward to seeing whatever they offered. The play actually opened the evening that I was scheduled to leave, so I contacted the director and asked if I could see a dress rehearsal. About 10 of us were in the audience. There's a warmth in my memory of that performance; not just the performance but the whole experience. Just a few people—I knew none of them—there primarily as part of the production crew in some way. It's a very welcoming theatre space. The plot concerns producing a play, and we were all part of producing a play about producing a play. Good stuff.
I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and knew then that I would love to have HG produce it sometime. The script hadn't even been published yet, but I was able to get a typed manuscript. Sometimes when I see a play and then read it later I'm not as taken with it. Not in this case. Reading it a few months after seeing it provided a confirmation that I hoped HG could produce it one day.
And here we are, launching into this particular journey. It gets better each step of the way. Into the breeches...!